North Carolina needs Henson

Star's injury threatens Heels' NCAA tournament chances

Updated: March 16, 2012, 1:32 PM ET
By John Gasaway | ESPN Insider
John Henson, Darion AtkinsAP Photo/Gerry BroomeJohn Henson has become more than a defensive specialist for the Tar Heels.

If you've ever speculated that timing is everything -- and I do mean everything -- when it comes to the impact a news story does or does not make, the events of the past seven days certainly lent credence to your theory.

One week ago today, North Carolina star John Henson injured his left wrist in the Tar Heels' 85-69 victory over Maryland in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. It was big news, of course. Henson was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year this season, and UNC was vying for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Still, there was a lot going on in college basketball that day. Conference tournaments were in full swing; Illinois fired Bruce Weber that morning; and, of course, bubble talk was everywhere. (Drexel! Iona! Mississippi State!) One wrist injury to one star player wasn't going to cut through all that noise. No way.

Then, on Tuesday, Syracuse announced that Fab Melo would be ineligible for the postseason. There was absolutely nothing happening Tuesday. The first two of the First Four games were scheduled to tip off that night, and President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron were en route to Dayton, Ohio, to take in the action, but it was absolutely dead quiet in our college basketball world that afternoon. So, word that the No. 1 seed Orange would be without their intimidating 7-0 shot-blocker constituted the news equivalent of dropping a boulder in a wading pool. Twitter went nuts; fans everywhere changed their brackets; Vegas changed the odds on Syracuse winning it all; and even normally responsible and indisputably sagacious writers sounded a little freaked out. When it came to the relative impacts the Henson and Melo stories made, timing really was everything.

I'm not saying that Syracuse losing Melo isn't a big deal. What I am saying, though, is that fellow No. 1 seed Carolina losing Henson is an even bigger deal.


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